Frank Peter Zimmermann demonstrates his love for the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in his second installment of the violin concertos on Hänssler Classic. The Violin Concerto No. 2 in D major, K. 211, the Turkish-flavored Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219, and the Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major, K. 364 complete the series and make a satisfying program, while Zimmermann's polished and lively playing complements his fine work on the first volume.
The Australian Chamber Orchestra and its enterprising leader, violinist Richard Tognetti, wade with these popular Mozart works into a field with plenty of competition, and the results, as usual with this popular group, range from good to superb. The performances are generally oriented toward historical practice; the string players use gut strings, tuned slightly below modern concert pitch, and the oboes and horns are historically appropriate instruments. In general matters of attack and phrasing, the players do not diverge too far from modern practice, and Tognetti, in his own notes (in English, German, and French), points out that even if treatises of the period laid down certain procedures in regard to these matters, the notoriously capricious Mozart might well have done something completely different.
Handel’s 1736 opera 'Atalanta' concluded with a spectacular display of fireworks in its first year of performance; it has only recently been revived for the first time since the 18th century. The fireworks on this live Philharmonia Baroque recording from 2005 are of the vocal variety. The San Francisco Chronicle raved: “Magnificent… the most vibrant, exhilarating stretch of musical showmanship this organization has offered in many a long season.
Apart from his popular Canciones negras, written more than half a century ago, the compositions of the now 87-year-old Montsalvatge (in 1999) have made little impact on the musical public in general: many of his works remain unrecorded – the opera Puss in Boots, the Indian Quartet, the five Invocaciones al Crucificado and the virtuoso Harpsichord Concerto, to name only four. But there are two Montsalvatges – one with a more traditional manner, and a later more trenchant, experimental and individual. From his earlier period comes the Sinfonia Mediterranea, composed three years after the Canciones negras; its lack of fashionable ‘modernity’ tempted him at one time to consider rejecting it completely. I’m glad he didn’t, for it’s an attractive (if slightly overlong), warmly romantic work that includes melodies of a popular cast.